1890 – 1914

Young StravinskyThe 2014 festival featured several of the great masterpieces of this revolutionary period.

Artistic Director Orlando Jopling says

“This year for the last time, we only have to look back 100 years to be in the ambitious, innocent and febrile artistic world of pre-war Europe, transformed by wave after wave of fashionable exoticisms – Orientalism, primitivism, cubism and surrealism.”

The impresario Serge Diaghilev risked commissioning an unknown young Russian composer called Igor Stravinsky, Picasso painted the sets for the Russian Ballet, and Edward Elgar’s nostalgic and literary romanticism rubbed shoulders with Dadaism and the first ever conceptual art.

The Beethovenhaus in Vienna, cradle of the Seccesion
The Beethovenhaus in Vienna, cradle of the Seccesion

Rebellious Art Nouveau architects rubbed out the ‘eyebrows’ which had decorated windows for 500 years, and Mahler’s world-encompassing symphonies were outdone only by Scriabin’s symphony-opera, whose planned performance in the Himalayas was to last a week and encompass smell and touch as well as sight and sound.

It is a mad, wonderful period which also happens to include some of my desert-island pieces of music, so it is fantastic to have the excuse to look back at it.”

The Festival featured some of the great works from the period, among them Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faun, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, Firebird and Soldier’s Tale, Elgar’s Cello Concerto, Ravel’s piano trio and Quartet, Rachmaninov’s Vespers, Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending, chamber music by John Ireland and Lili Boulanger and songs by Ravel, Fauré and de Falla along with period Music Hall songs.

Detail from Natalia Goncharova's backcloth for the original production of The Firebird
Detail from Natalia Goncharova’s backcloth for the original production of The Firebird

Two cries of despair at the folly of war – Shostakovich’s 8th Quartet (1964)  and Strauss’ Metamorphosen (1944), complement the theme.